Good thing it’s only July: Lobos hoops women won’t be ready to play soon

LaTascya Duff, left, and sister LaTora Duff are shown working out at a UNM practice last November. LaTascya Duff will undergo surgery soon and may miss the start of the 2021-22 season. (Courtesy of UNM)

The good news for University of New Mexico women’s basketball fans is the season does not tip off in July. If it did, coach Mike Bradbury would be in a bind.

Between players recovering from surgery, another scheduled for surgery and a trio of not-yet-on-campus Europeans, the Lobos have quite a few more questions than answers regarding the 2021-22 season. Just two returning starters, forward Shaiquel McGruder and point guard LaTora Duff, have been full participants in UNM’s summer workouts.

The latest addition to the team’s list of question marks is LaTascya Duff, who will undergo surgery in August for what Bradbury called an “ongoing, non-basketball-related condition.” The recovery time is uncertain, he said, but last season’s Mountain West Sixth-Player of the Year could miss the start of this coming season.

“I can’t even speculate on the recovery time,” Bradbury said, “but it’s something that needed to be addressed.”

UNM already has two All-Mountain West Conference players on the rehab list, though the news on Jaedyn De La Cerda and Antonia Anderson has been encouraging. De La Cerda (right thumb) is now able to shoot with her dominant hand and was cleared this week for limited contact. Anderson (knee) has not been cleared for contact but has been shooting and gaining increased mobility at workouts.

“They’re probably both ahead of where we thought they’d be,” Bradbury said.

De La Cerda expects to be 100% healthy by the time fall practice begins, but Anderson’s status remains to be determined.

Bottom line: UNM figures to have newcomers playing significant minutes this season, particularly early in the schedule. Which players it will be and at what positions, Bradbury can only guess.

“Not knowing who’s going to be healthy and available makes it tough,” Bradbury said. “I think when everyone gets here it will help. We still won’t know exactly what we have until closer to the season, but we can start trying different combinations and figuring things out.”

Three incoming freshmen have yet to join their teammates for practice at the Davalos Center. Point guard Rebeka Renczes (Hungary), guard Zeyno Isil Seren (Turkey) and forward Paula Reus (Spain) are expected to arrive in Albuquerque in mid-August. How they’ll fit into the plans is impossible to predict.

Bradbury has been impressed with the three freshman now on campus. Guards Aniyah Augmon, Viané Cumber and Mackenzie Curtis bring different skill sets to the roster, but all appear capable of contributing in 2021-22.

Sophomores Kath van Bennekom (guard) and Nevaeh Parkinson (center) also have made strides and are vying for increased playing time.

“I like the players we have,” Bradbury said. “We’re just very inexperienced, especially with the people we have out. Fortunately, the players who are out already know our system and should be able to integrate quickly when they come back. That gives us more time to work with the young ones – which is good because at least some of them are going to play.”

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